Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pune ahoy!

A couple of months back and completely out of the blue, came instructions from my bosses that I was being transferred to pune to acquire SME clients in pune, nasik and aurangabad. Logically it seemed like an okay thing to do (not that I had much choice in the matter) and hence we packed up all our stuff and shipped our arses to the city of two-wheelers.

We've been here for almost four weeks now, and I'm missing mumbai sorely. Everything seems different here, alien in some way. Thats quite surprising since its not as if its in a different part of the country where there would be a cultural shift. Pune is a fking 4 hour drive from mumbai, and i'm anyways no stranger to this place at all. All through my childhood I've spent a decent chunk of my holidays here visiting an odd assortment of uncles and aunts and cousins. And then over the last few years, there've been these numerous visits to my in-laws, especially during the time that my wife was expecting. I guess we react quite differently to places when we are just visiting. Was suddenly reminded of an old song, one of my favourites from Sting:

I dont take coffee I take tea my dear
I like my toast done on one side
And you can hear it in my accent when I talk
I'm an englishman in new york

See me walking down fifth avenue
A walking cane here at my side
I take it everywhere I walk
I'm an englishman in new york

I'm an alien I'm a legal alien
I'm an englishman in new york

Over the last few days as it has slowly started to sink in that I've actually left mumbai, the city of my life, and come here for a few years (hopefully not more), i've begun to compare everything. Mostly i'm amused at the idiosyncrasies here, and try not to get irritated. Let me just list some funny stuff:

- the locals here are bloody rude most of the time

- a huge proportion of restaurants and shops open after 10:30 am

- many shops still shut down for a few hours in the afternoon

- shopping malls start their air conditioning only during evenings on weekdays and a few extra hours on weekends; the staff greet you with glistening faces and clothes sticking to their bodies, but you dont notice as you start feeling suffocated within 15 mins...

- there are no taxies anywhere

- the rickshawala's will always always always ask for extra money

- in many parts of the city there is no concept of home delivery

- the famous "puneri patya" - oversmart, arrogant and hilarious - are everywhere

- bikers remain in the leftmost lane till the last minute for a right u-turn and vice versa

- people comfortably drive on the wrong side of a crowded road if its convenient for them

- every few meters at every possible intersection and break in the divider vehicles from all directions converge to reduce average speeds to sub-20 kmph and create one of the most inefficient traffic scenes in this side of the world

- maids, shop keepers, rickshawala's, drivers, etc, glare (and sometimes shout) at you when asked to do a little bit extra; they will coolly let go of opportunities to earn something extra if it: interferes with their chillax time / they are not in the mood / the way you ask them touches their over-sensitive ego / you appear shocked at their exorbitant quote / etc etc.....

- it is very common to see a girl in the drivers seat of a 2 wheeler with the guy sitting pillion

- it is also very common (and very very disturbing) to see large-sized, rough-looking bearded men riding a scooty or an activa

- the girls all ride with 95% of their faces covered with scarves or dupattas so that a hyper-mumbaikar like me constantly expects one of them to whip out an AK47 from an innocent looking purse

- thrice i have seen a biker stop IN THE MIDDLE LANE of a busy road to answer his mobile and then slowly, taking his own sweet time move to the side while yakking away, head tilted 90 degrees to hold the phone

Shit, what a list! Proved again that I crib a lot. :-) But all said and done, the weather is really good here. A pleasant break from the hot and humid mumbai; and since i dont exercise at all, my sweat-pores are really on a break. The girls are quite pretty too, especially the konkanastha brahmin babes (shivaji park types). Also seems like their dressing sense has improved by miles from what i remember; spotted a few bare shoulders and belly buttons; not much of arse-cleavage though, i guess low waist jeans are yet only to be seen at Mithibai, HR, Xaviers and the like.

And its a more relaxed city, perhaps just what i need. Take time out to see the birds and sniff the flowers and shit like that, you know... Other guys who've shifted from mumbai to pune say that the initial comparisons are akin to withdrawal symptoms, and that once i've been here for a year, it will be almost impossible to go back.